Missionary Diocese Leaves Episcopal Church, Forms New Denomination

Episcopal News Service. December 3, 1992 [92238]

A year after the formation of a so-called missionary diocese for traditionalist Episcopalians, the organization has bolted from the Episcopal Church and formed a new denomination.

The Missionary Diocese of the Americas (MDA) was formed on November 8, 1991, by the Episcopal Synod of America (ESA), a group of traditionalists within the Episcopal Church that oppose what they consider to be liberal trends in the denomination. At the founding of the MDA, the ESA contended that traditionalists needed a nongeographic diocese to minister in places "where the present episcopal leadership continues to suppress and persecute biblical Christianity."

On November 20, 1992, the MDA announced that it had severed all formal ties with the ESA -- and by extension the Episcopal Church -- and had formed a new denomination, the Episcopal Missionary Church (EMC). Also breaking ranks with his former denomination and leading the EMC is retired Episcopal Bishop Donald Davies.

'We have not abandoned the faith'

"Traditionalists in the United States and England were being marginalized. Our declaration of independence is a result of this marginalization," Davies said in a telephone interview. "From an integrity

hopes to find a place in the Anglican Communion. "It has proved impossible to live with the errors of ecclesiastical liberalism combined with the dramatic shift that has now occurred in England's mother church of Anglicanism," he said.

Davies has told reporters that Archbishop of Canterbury George Carey is "in apostasy" because Carey had supported the ordination of women to the priesthood. "The basis of us looking to Canterbury is gone now," said the Rev. John Shepherd, a spokesperson for the EMC and former chaplain to the bishop of London.

"I think the turmoil in England may determine a realignment of the Anglican Communion -- maybe two bodies... a kind of working coalition apart from Canterbury," Davies said. He reported that he had been in contact with several so-called "continuing church bodies" -- breakaway denominations that left the Episcopal Church in the 1970s. "I am now freer to deal with continuing church bodies. We will pursue reconciliation out of a sense that we need a unified witness to traditional movement. I think this is possible," he said.

New denomination will elect new bishops

For now, Davies said that he will concentrate on building the new denomination. He estimated that the EMC has between 300 and 1,000 members in 33 congregations "scattered across the United States, Canada and Brazil, with another dozen or so groups thinking about joining."

According to Shepherd, the only Episcopal Church parish affiliated with the new denomination is St. Luke's in Richmond, Virginia. A dispute between St. Luke's and the Episcopal Diocese of Southern Virginia over control of the church property is pending in the Virginia civil courts.

Nearly all the EMC congregations were formed within the past year by unchurched people and disaffected Episcopalians, according to Shepherd. He defined congregations as places "where the Eucharist is celebrated at least once a week." Shepherd said that the congregations hold services in "all sorts of places from church buildings to homes to funeral parlors, a hotel and a Masonic temple."

The EMC has already ordained three deacons -- a former Episcopal seminarian and two former Protestant clergy. Plans are under way to elect three new bishops. Davies estimated that the EMC would elect new bishops "in the early part of 1993," and that there were already some nominations of candidates.

"I don't think we are going to be another continuing church," Davies said. "There is no doubt that there will be three bishops with valid orders to ordain new bishops for the EMC." He suggested that bishops from an overseas province of the Anglican Communion might participate in future consecrations of EMC bishops.

Davies also identified four retired Episcopal bishops that he said "served as consultants" to the former missionary diocese and to the EMC, including Paul Reeves of Georgia, Donald Parsons of Quincy, Stanley Atkins of Eau Claire, and Victor Rivera of San Joaquin. Davies said that he did not know whether those four would become a part of the EMC.